Microsoft is 'retiring' the Outlook on the Web/OWA mobile apps for iOS and Android in favor of the native Outlook mobile apps for iOS and Android over the next couple of months.
This week, Microsoft officials announced the "retirement" of its Outlook on the Web mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and Android.
Outlook on the Web -- the latest Microsoft name for what it originally called (and calls in the March 7 blog post) "Outlook Web Apps" -- are being replaced by the native Outlook apps for iOS and Android devices.
Here's the phase-out timetable from Microsoft:
April 2018: The OWA for iPhone, iPad and Android apps will no longer be available for download from Apple's iTunes store and the Google Play store.
April 2018: OWA mobile app users will see a recurring in-app message notifying them of the date when the app will be retired, with a link to download Outlook for iOS or Android.
May 15, 2018: The OWA mobile apps will stop working. Office 365 users who attempt to open them will be greeted with a message directing them to download Outlook for iOS or Android.
Not everyone's happy about the transition, as is clear from the comments on the Microsoft blog post. One reason: Even though Microsoft officials say they believe the native Outlook mobile apps are now good enough, there are still a number of features that are in the Outlook on the Web versions that are not supported in the native versions.
A chart comparing the functionality of Outlook on the Web mobile, Outlook for iOS and Android and Outlook 2016 backs these users' cases. (Thanks to RedmondMag.com for the link to this chart.)
Outlook on the Web lets users maintain favorite folder lists, rename folders, view/send mail from shared mailboxes and more, while the new native Outlook apps for iOS and Android don't. Microsoft officials say some of the "key" missing features (such as shared mailbox mail) will be added before the end of calendar 2018.
If you're wondering, like I was, whether Microsoft's next move is to drop support for some of its other web apps (Word Web app, Excel Web app, etc.), the answer is no, according to a spokesperson. The spokesperson says this move is unique to Outlook.
The full statement I got from the spokesperson:
"In recent years, we've invested heavily in delivering an award-winning user experience and bolstering security in Outlook for iOS and Android and have reached the point where the core value surpasses that of the OWA mobile apps. Key features have been built into the native Outlook mobile app. Remaining capabilities, such as Shared Mailboxes, will be built into Outlook by the end of the year but in the meantime, users can still access all OWA features from the browser on their mobile device."
So that's an important point for those not ready to cut the Outlook for the Web/OWA cord: Browser-based access to Outlook for the Web still works and will continue to work for the time-being.